In 2009, my husband and I embarked on a 12-night Western Mediterranean cruise that took us through Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Dubrovnik.

In the summer of 2012, we're heading back...only this time, our three kids will be joining us, and it will be a 12-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise that will have us sailing through Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

This blog is a chronicle of our cruising experiences - the good, the bad, the ugly. It includes a day-by-day journal of what we did, how we did it, what we did right - and what we didn't do so right.

Not only do we use this to "remember" our adventures, but our hope is that our story will assist others in their own planning.

Friday, July 17, 2009

2009: Day 0 Barcelona

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Ahhh….the first day of our adventure….it seemed like this day would never get here. We arise very leisurely around 7:00 am and finish up our last-minute packing. After dropping off the daughter at her grandparents’ house, we arrive at Thrifty Car Park around 10:30 am. Thrifty is where our car will sit for the next 2 weeks – at $4.25 per day, it’s the cheapest that I have found.

We are at Kansas City International Airport by 11:00 am and check in with the Delta Sky Cap, where we check our luggage. Our luggage consists of one large suitcase for each of us and one garment bag – shared. This will be checked. We each have a carry-on bag.

Now, a side note. I hate to fly. I mean, REALLY hate to fly. I have severe panic attacks on planes that feel as if I’m having a heart attack. Especially if we hit bumps. I hate bumps. So – dear, wonderful Hubby had told me awhile back, “If I have to fly with you all the way over to Europe – it had better be in First Class”. I’m not sure what his logic is here – perhaps the bumps aren’t so bad in First Class? I think he was thinking of my comfort – If I’m more comfortable, than perhaps I won’t panic as much….? Whatever the case, we are normally NOT first-class fliers, but for Europe – we splurged.

Once we board the plane, we sit in our seats – Seats 2C and 2D in First Class. We have drinks, pillows and blankets waiting for us, which is very nice. The flight is initially smooth, and then gets a little bumpy as we approach Atlanta. I hate bumps. Time to swallow a Valium.

We arrive in Atlanta at 4:20 EST and immediately head to the Delta Sky Club for some wine, desserts, and snacks. We then board Flight 114 – non-stop to Barcelona. We are seated in 7A & 7B – the very last row in Business Elite on the left side of the plane. We have full-sized pillows and a large comforter waiting for us; we also get complimentary champagne upon arrival.

We attempt to sleep but there is much turbulence for awhile – even with another Valium, I struggle to control the panic attacks I have upon flying. I guess I eventually did doze off….

We wake up at 7:30 Barcelona time (12:30 AM CST) and are treated with an omelet before landing in Barcelona. Landing is at 8:55 AM – and my pre-arranged taxi is not there. So we wait. And we wait. And we wait some more. About 10:00 AM, I start to dig out the phone number to call them (Barcelona Taxi), when Enrique comes running in, apologizing for being late, and rushes to get our luggage. He claims that he called the airport to see if our flight was on time and was told that we would be 2 hours late….huh?

Enrique took us directly to our hotel, Hotel 1898. I had booked this online after reading some reviews out here on Cruise Critic. Our room wasn’t ready yet but they gladly held our luggage for us so we could go sightseeing.

We hopped back in our little taxi with Enrique; we went on a 3-hour tour (sounds like the Gilligan’s Island theme song) – and we saw it all – everything Gaudi, the Olympic Stadium, museums, Columbus Tower, markets, shops, people – wow. My brain was on jet-lag overload.

Here's a shot of Enrique and me walking into the Olympic Stadium, home of the 1992 Olympics.

We loved Park Guell - which contains amazing stone structures and beautiful flowers. We could have spent all day in this beautiful park.

This is a photo of Casa Mila - designed by Antonio Gaudi. It's now called "La Pedrera", which means "quarry." Supposedly, there are no straight lines on the outside of this building - it's all waves.

At one museum, there was a gentleman out front playing a beautiful guitar. We stop to listen – I’m excited about getting an opportunity to hear some beautiful Spanish folk music – when the opening strains of “Hotel California” by the Eagles begin….Now, I love the Eagles – but in Barcelona??!! I just thought that was funny. Perhaps I was a slight bit jet-lagged.

The Torre Agbar, or Agbar Tower, was recently completed. It's a water tower. It has many nicknames, apparently. You think??!!

When our tour was over, Enrique took us to a little restaurant along Las Ramblas for some delicious tapas. Now, the Barcelona Taxi website said they would accept payment via credit card – but Enrique refused our credit card and wanted cash only. Luckily, there was an ATM machine right next door to the restaurant, or we would have been in trouble. That was a little frustrating for us – needless to say, he didn’t get as big a tip as he would have gotten if he would have taken plastic.

Our lunch was delicious – the pappas brevas (potatoes with cheese) was our favorite. I ordered a hamburger and had to crack up when I saw the size of it.

After lunch, we stroll up and down Las Ramblas – enjoying the street performers, the music, the people, the traffic – it was all new and it was all exciting. I love visiting new places. Did we ever feel unsafe – or scared of pickpockets? No – we kept our bags close and we were fine. We felt safe at all times.

Around 2:30 pm, we walked back to Hotel 1898 only to find that our room was still not ready. Okay – the website said rooms would be ready by 3:00 pm and we’re a little early – so we’ll hang in the lobby and wait. We sit down in the lobby and there’s a couple also sitting, waiting. We begin talking only to find out that it’s our friend LarryKak from Cruise Critic – how funny! They introduce themselves as Larry and Kathleen.

Our room was finally ready around 4:00 pm. The room was nice – albeit small – which is typical of European rooms.

We had been in the room for about 5 minutes – when suddenly – the lights go off! We’re in the dark! Do they have power outages in Barcelona? We wait for a few minutes – no lights – so I open the door and look out and see that the room across the hall is open, being cleaned by the maid, and their lights are ON. What??! So, I tentatively call out, “Hola?!” The maid comes out and I indicate our dark room – she asks for our hotel room key and inserts it into a little slot in the wall….well, I’ll be darned. Who knew? You apparently must keep your key in the slot to keep your lights on. Did our bellhop bother telling us this when he brought our luggage up? No. Let the silly tourists learn it on their own, the hard way. Here's the slot with the necessary key:

Hubby and I quickly crawl into bed to catch a few zzzzz’s….and wake up a few hours later to get ready for dinner. As I get ready to climb into the shower, I find a conglomeration of buttons, knobs, and instructions. There was a virtual thesis of instructions next to the shower on how to operate it…and after much trial and error, we finally got it working and at the right temperature. We meet up with Larry and Kathleen in the lobby and begin walking down Las Ramblas to Taller de Tapas for dinner. We had set up a dinner party for pre-cruisers on Cruise Critic for here – and after much walking, we finally found it. Flycruiser (Susan, Pete and Ian) were there already, and later, Tufy (Joe and Thelma) joined us.

A great dinner of tapas – including risotto, more pappas, calamari – and then it was time to head back to the room – this was around 10:30 pm. Can you tell we talked a lot?!

Here’s a great photo of the seafood risotto – we should have just ordered one and shared it. It was huge.

When we got back to our room, we find it freezing! We never did find the thermostat, but managed to find an extra blanket which we used. (We found out from Larry the next morning that the thermostat was on the back wall of the closet. Who puts thermostat controls in the closet??!!!) I was in the restroom getting ready for bed when – guess what – the lights go out. Darn it. We’ve gotta remember to keep that darn key in the slot.

We’re zonked out by 11:00 pm with thoughts of embarkation floating in our heads.

First day impressions: Barcelona is a wonderful city – I would have loved to have more time in this amazing city. The architecture is beautiful; the people were friendly; and there is a lot to do.

Impressions of Hotel 1898: beautiful décor; room was decent sized and very clean. Service was not sufficient – our room was ready 30 minutes late; Larry’s room wasn’t ready until after 4:00 pm – not acceptable when you’ve been traveling all day. Need better explanations from the bellhop about controls – the light control, shower control, temperature control, etc.

Tomorrow: EMBARKING!!!

1 comment:

  1. A very intresting blog. I wonder why you stopped writing. Gorgeous pictues. I invite you to visit my travelling blog. Kind regards. Philip